We awoke around 7:30am, and we prepared for the day by cooking some oatmeal with dried cranberries. Sometime in the night, John had been awakened by the fire roaring and had thought the entire campsite was on fire. I too had been awoken, but it was by Gary. After we had gone to bed, I saw him come up to our campsite breathing heavily. I pretended to be asleep to see what he would do. He just stood at the edge of our campsite for a while and then he left. What I imagine happened was that he might have added some wood to our fire for some reason and then wandered off. I had also awoken to a raccoon sniffing at my head as well, but as soon as I moved, he/she scampered off. All of these things were the topic of conversation over breakfast.
After breakfast, we cleaned and packed up, getting back on the road about 8:50am. The road skirted a bit of Coldwater Lake and a gentle breeze was blowing. While my legs seemed a bit sore, I felt pretty refreshed while we rode around the lake and onto Centennial Drive. However, once we got on Centennial Drive, I noticed that my legs felt very sluggish and the sun seemed to already be beating down on us. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself.
About a half hour or so later, we arrived in downtown Coldwater. It is a pretty city overall, with decently well-kept streets (at least the streets we rode on). There were industrial-looking buildings, but it didn’t have the air of the classic “dirty” town. In fact, it seemed pretty nice.
We got out of Coldwater on M-86 (Colon Road), and we were about five miles from Coldwater when John informed me that he had a flat tire. So, we stopped in front of a little farmhouse and John got to work replacing the tube of his tire.
When that was done, we headed on. After a few minutes of riding, John realized that he had left his tire irons at the place where he changed his tires. He tried calling out to me to tell me this, but for some reason, I could not hear him. He turned around and went back for them, while I continued riding merrily along.
At some point, I looked back and saw that he was out of sight. With all the hills, I just assumed that he had fallen a bit behind, though that’s not like him. I slowed down a lot and looked back again. No John appeared. Finally I stopped and waited for what seemed like minutes (but was probably on the order of seconds). I then turned around and headed back towards the spot where I had last seen him. I pedaled hard, thinking of all the possible things that could have happened to him. Finally, a figure appeared at the top of a hill. I continued pedaling for a while until I could verify that it was indeed our man John. A wave of relief swept over me, and I turned around to wait for him to catch up. He explained what had happened, and I told him that I was glad that he was all right.
Because of the unexpected delays, we pushed hard for another two hours or so until we arrived at the city of Three Rivers, which consequently is where three different rivers join together. The town itself has a fairly bustling downtown, but a lot of vacant storefronts. We decided to stop at this town for lunch.
We rode around looking for a nice park to take our lunch. Along the way, we saw a party store, so we stopped in there and since we didn’t get any milk the previous night, we decided to buy a half gallon of the stuff. Sweaty and dirty from the road, we strode up to the counter where the cashier was waiting. After paying for our delicious drink, the cashier told us, “I would tell you to keep cool, but I saw what you are doing.” We laughed and said thanks anyway.
After walking outside, I tried to strap the half gallon of milk in the netting that held my backpack to the top of the rack. Telling John to “watch the milk,” we set off for Memory Isle Park nearby. After traveling about 20 feet, I heard something fall behind me, and lo, the milk jug was laying in the middle of the street! I couldn’t hold back a gasp, but after seeing that the jug was not damaged or leaking its precious cargo, we both started laughing. I then carried the milk in my hand since we didn’t have very far to go.
We circled around Memory Isle Park for a while and then found the entrance on an unexpected street. I saw a pavillion next to the river that looked perfect. So we rode into the shade of the pavillion and prepared for lunch.
We noticed a group of people across the river, and I jokingly said that it must be a wedding. Though I had been joking, I was not mistaken. It actually was a wedding. I was very surprised because there aren’t usually weddings on Mondays.
John went into the river and drew out some water for our meal and to fill our water bottles with while I prepared the meal.
Lunch itself was a lovely dinner of baked beans and macaroni and cheese. The milk washed it all down so very nicely. A girl and her dog walked by and we got to meet the dog, though I’ve forgotten its name. Other than that and a few bikers, no one came into our area of the park while we ate.
I was feeling fat, sassy, and happy as we cleaned up and prepared to ride onward. However, I did not yet know that all the milk I drank would settle into my gut and feel like it was beating my stomach with a lead pipe. We started off going through the rest of Three Rivers at a decently slow speed, however as we continued out of town and into the heat of the day, I felt worse and worse.
Finally, I told John we would have to stop after about 32 minutes of riding. The hills heretofore had seemed tortuous to me, and I saw more hills on the horizon. So, we stopped for about eight minutes while I caught my breath and cooled down a little.
I had been leading the ride up that point but John was willing to lead, and I wanted to stay back a bit. So he then led us up to Dutch Settlement Road, which would take us to within a few miles of our destination. The hills on Dutch Settlement Road seemed never-ending. Up we would ride, hoping and praying for a nice downhill to follow. Down we would ride, hoping to have enough energy to make it through the next uphill without slowing down too much. Over and over, this continued. I imagined that a huge rubber band was attached to John’s bike, and that if I got too far behind John, it would snap. This trick of the mind helped me keep up with him in spite of how bad I was feeling.
We stopped in the shade of some trees near an old farmhouse after another half hour of riding. I sipped on water, ate a little beef jerky, and took a shot of honey. I was starting to feel a bit better, though I was nowhere near perfect.
After a short break, we continued our journey. John led the way like a champ while I tried my best to keep up. A little over an hour later, we had arrived at our destination: Cool Springs Campground.
Along the way, I had been worried because I had left messages for the proprietors of the campground both before and during the trip, but they had not returned my calls. I had called them during the now-infamous “milk lunch” as well, and that time, it had said that the voice mailbox was full. So, we were not sure what we were getting ourselves into or if we would be able to stay there. I figured that I would be happy to just camp in a field somewhere if it didn’t work out.
When we arrived, I walked up to the office, a small log-cabin-type building with two rocking chairs on the deck. No one was at the office, but I did see a drop box for choosing a campsite and paying. So, I grabbed one of the envelopes and we went off to choose a site. After pondering over the map for a minute, we came to see that there were two areas, one filled with walk-in sites and another for rv-type camping. We choose the former and walked back to take a look at the sites. We didn’t see a single soul during our entire exploration. That made me feel a bit silly for thinking that we might not be able to get a site.
All of the walk-in sites were quite pretty and we eventually settled on a site that topped a bluff overlooking a small stream. We unpacked and relaxed for a few minutes before dropping off the envelope to pay for the night. While we were there, we also picked up a load of wood (again, there was a drop box) and explored a bit more of the campground.
The entire campground seemed to be deserted, but the campground itself was really cool. There was a pond with a water trampoline. A large recreation building with a nice-sized deck was nearby. There were beautiful gazebos and a couple of waterfalls.
One thing that piqued my interest was the petting zoo. John and I met Osama Bin Llama and joked about finding his hideout.
There were a couple of cute miniature goats as well. The little black goat would come up and bite the edge of your shorts until you noticed, and then he’d prance away.
We stayed in the petting zoo area for quite a while hanging out with the animals, but by now my stomach was feeling better, and it was starting to gurgle with hunger.
We cooked a vegetable goulash and snacked on sardines and crackers. Though in normal surroundings, it might not have tasted all that great, in my mind it tasted amazingly delicious.
After dinner, we took a walk back to the ponds, and rested for a little while. After a completely crazy and hard day, I was ready to just relax. It felt amazing to sit at the edge of the water and cool my tired feet while the pond’s gentle waves lapped at my ankles. It was then that I noticed a blister developing on my heel, but that point, I didn’t care. I felt like I was in heaven.
We hung out and watched the sunset at the pond, and then we headed back to our campsite and prepared for bed.
Given the nature of the place with lots of animals, we packed everything up good and tight. Then, we lumbered off to bed not aware of the battle we were about to wage.
In the middle of the night, I awoke to the sound of one our pannier bags getting dragged away! I grabbed my camera as I couldn’t find my flashlight and hit the flash. Lo and behold, there was a raccoon trying to drag a bag into the woods. I scared it off, and gathered all the bags together next to me.
I then started nodding off to sleep. A short while later, the raccoon was back, but this time I think he brought a friend or two.
I scared them off for about a minute this time, and heard them sneaking back towards us. We repulsed another wave, and John volunteered to put the bags in his tent. We did this, and I fell back asleep. This time, I slept soundly till daybreak.